thanks to Gene Sloan / March 19, 2019
Thinking about booking your first cruise? The sheer range of choices can be daunting. There are more than two dozen lines marketing to North Americans — no two alike.
That’s why TPG put together a quick guide to 16 of the most popular brands, from cruise giant Royal Caribbean, which operates the world’s biggest ships, to small luxury players such as Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas.
Azamara Club Cruises
With just three small ships, Azamara Quest, Journey and Pursuit, each holding fewer than 700 passengers, Azamara Club Cruises is one of the smallest players in the cruise business. But it has a loyal following of travelers who appreciate the upscale ambiance of its vessels, the inclusive amenities it offers (including gratuities and alcoholic drinks) and its destination focus. The line prides itself on offering longer stays in ports, including multiday visits. Its ships have an intimate, boutique-hotel.
Carnival Cruise Line
The self-described “Fun Ship” line is the king of short, affordable, fun-focused cruises from US ports to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico and beyond. The choice of roughly one in five cruisers, its ships are notoriously lively, flashy and packed with fun features such as water slides. Just don’t expect anything too fancy
Designed to be a cut above mainstream options such as Carnival while still relatively affordable, this Miami-based “premium” line is known for some of the most stylish ships at sea. Expect high-end design, cutting-edge art and on-trend restaurants. In short, it aims for sophisticates, not the party crowd. Its newest ship, the Celebrity Edge, aims to attract new-to-cruisers to the seas with a bevy of amenities and a sleek design.
When Celebrity Cruises first debuted Celebrity Solstice, the first ship in its Solstice Class, travel history was made. It was the first ship to have a real grass lawn at sea plus the first to have a hot glass show onboard. In addition to providing industry firsts, the ship is also — simply put — beautiful. Five ships later and the Solstice Class continues to provide beauty and a casual elegance with an emphasis on innovation, pampering, and fun.
Celebrity Equinox 2009 pax 2,850
Celebrity Eclipse 2010 pax 2,850
Celebrity Silhouette 2011 pax 2,886
Celebrity Reflection 2012pax 3,046
Celebrity Edge Class.
Celebrity Edge 2018 pax 2918
Celebrity Apex 2020 pax 2910
The first in the new Edge Class of ships designed to shatter expectations. With luxuriously designed rooms that erase the boundary between indoors and out, a cantilevered Magic Carpet soaring above the sea, and a collection of 29 world-class restaurants, bars, and lounges, Celebrity Edge has been voted Best New Ship by the editors of Cruise Critic.
Some say this is the ultimate luxury line. Despite its small size — aside from a budding river cruise operation, it offers just two traditional ocean ships and a small yacht — Crystal long has set the bar for on-board service, elegance and fine dining. Alas, you’ll pay a pretty penny for it.
Ocean-Together Crystal Symphony and Serenity enjoy a reputation as The World's Most Awarded Luxury Cruise Line.
River-Feature the largest standard accommodations in European River Cruising.
Crystal Bach, Debussy, Mahler, Mozart and Ravel.
A storied line with roots that go back to the 1800s, this three-ship brand is perhaps best-known for its 2,695-passenger flagship, Queen Mary 2, which lives up to its billing as a true “ocean liner” with semi-regular, transatlantic service between Southampton, England and New York, and now LIVERPOOL. Cunard fans love the line’s relatively formal vibe (including nightly dress codes) and other nods to ocean-liner tradition including evenings with ballroom dancing. Afternoon tea is a Daily British tradition served in the Queens Room at 3:30pm, their white gloved waiters serve a perfect cup of english tea with fresh scones and cream as well as perfectly cut finger sandwiches.
Disney Cruise Line
Meet-and-greets with Disney characters, Disney-themed shows and the most extensive kiddie fun zones on the high seas are just a few of the family-friendly allures of a Disney cruise. If you’re a Disney fan, nothing quite compares. Ports of call include Hawaii, Bermuda, Cozumel and even Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. The downside? As with Disney’s parks on land, it doesn’t come cheap.
AquaDuck is a water coaster (a water slide with similar turns, drops and g-forces to a roller coaster) that is located on the deck of two Disney cruise ships. It was first constructed on the Disney Dream in January 2011 and then later on the Disney Fantasy in February 2012.
Holland America Line
Tradition long has been a touchstone for this storied line, which dates to 1873 and is known for carefully crafted, globe-circling itineraries on mid-size ships. But it’s been shaking things up in recent years with lively new venues such as B.B. King’s Blues Clubs. Couples and retirees are the market; families with kids might want to look elsewhere.
Proudly reflecting more than 140 years of Dutch seafaring tradition, ms Nieuw Statendam is the second of Holland America Line’s Pinnacle-class ships with legendary architecture, signature service, opulent interiors and grand light-filled spaces; a staple of the nautical heritage for which the cruise line is known.
Launched in December 2018, ms Nieuw Statendam raises the bar for 21st-century cruising with elegant designs, breathtaking central atrium, subtly changing high-definition backdrop projections and brilliant hospitality. Dazzling entertainment featuring Lincoln Center Stage, Billboard Onboard venues and the popular B.B. King’s Blues Club associated with the new “Music Walk” experience. The ms Nieuw Statendam is a sister ship to ms Koningsdam, the first Pinnacle-class ship of Holland America Line. Together, these spectacular new vessels combine classic style with carefully crafted itineraries that allow you to see the world in a whole new light.
Size-wise, Amsterdam, which spends summers in Alaska and the remainder of the year sailing a world cruise and extended journeys in Australia and the South Pacific, is solidly in the middle of the Holland America fleet. Built in 2000, it's smaller than the line's Vista and Signature classes of ships and carries 700 fewer passengers than Eurodam, the largest ship in the lineup
The last of Holland America's Statendam-class ships, Veendam blends a modicum of hipness with the strong traditional flavor that HAL's known for. The 57,092-ton, 1,350-passenger ship went under the knife in 2009, gaining new lanai and spa cabin categories, a more contemporary look in public areas and cabins, additional dining options and a revamped theatre experience.
Holland America has been in the midst of a change for several years and Westerdam is a perfect example of the line's new, younger persona. Rather than exclusively catering to the senior market, Westerdam now is perfectly positioned to attract both baby boomers and older Gen Xers.
The ship offers something for most everyone in those age brackets. Music lovers have three amazing choices from classical (including modern hits in classical style) at Lincoln Center Stage to have-to-dance blues and rock 'n roll in B.B. King's to sing-along sessions of your favorite radio hits at Billboard Onboard.
Prinsendam, Holland America's smallest vessel, is considered its pathfinder. This is the ship to choose if far-away destinations, longer-than-usual itineraries and superb value for money are key factors in selecting a cruise -- especially because Holland America has continued to upgrade and refurbish Prinsendam since acquiring the ship from Seabourn in 2002.
The latest major upgrade was completed in 2016 and the ship now carries more Holland America staples. It's got the line's signature Explorations Cafe by the New York Times, a lovely reading room and library. The Pinnacle Grill, Holland America's alternative restaurant that serves Northwest-inspired cuisine, has a fresh look and new menus. Cabins were refreshed with new carpets
Ryndam (2021) Overview
Holland America Line's third Pinnacle-class ship, set to debut in May 2021, will be called Ryndam. The ship will be the fourth in the line's history to carry the name.Ryndam is expected to be nearly identical to sister ships Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, with a Music Walkfeaturing B.B. King's Blues Club, Lincoln Center Stage, Billboard Onboard and Rolling Stone Rock Room. Also onboard will be the French brassiere Sel de Mer and Holland America signature eateries Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto.
A giant of cruising in Europe, Switzerland-based MSC is in the midst of making a big play for North Americans with newer, bigger ships based year-round in the Caribbean. Like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, it operates giant, resort-like vessels that appeal to a broad audience.
The MSC Cruises fleet can be divided into five categories, or Classes:
The 65,542-ton, 1,952-passenger Armonia and Sinfonia, which were acquired from the defunct First European/Festival Cruises and were originally called European Vision and European Stars, respectively -- were built in 2001 and 2002.
MSC's first new-builds started with the 65,591-ton, 1,984-passenger MSC Lirica, debuting in 2003. MSC Opera followed a year later; it's largely a sister ship, though some alterations were made to cabin configurations (fewer mini-suites, more standard staterooms with private balconies). Interestingly, this pair is a slightly evolved design-mate with Armonia and Sinfonia.
All four of these ships were "stretched" as part of a €200 million, two-year refurbishment program in 2014–2015 that saw a nearly 80-foot-long section sandwiched into the middle of each ship. The "stretching" procedure added nearly 200 more cabins -- 94 of which have balconies. During the refurbishment, the line also took the chance to update the spa and childcare facilities, as well as to add an interactive water feature called the Spray Park to the top deck.
MSC's Musica Class began with the 92,409-ton, 2,550-passenger Musica, launched in 2006. Musica featured an innovative new design for MSC; introduced on this vessel were more contemporary features, such as a sprawling spa, a wider range of dining venues -- like the now-standard wine bar -- and a much higher number of balcony cabins. MSC Musica has since been followed by siblings MSC Orchestra and MSC Poesia (launched in 2007 and 2008, respectively). MSC Magnifica, the fourth ship in the class, launched in 2010.
The introduction of the Fantasia class -- four ships that carry at least 3,300 passengers and are at least 137,963 tons -- was even more revolutionary for the line. MSC Fantasia debuted in December 2008; MSC Splendida, a sister ship, debuted in 2009; MSC Divina launched in 2012; and the line's largest, MSC Preziosa, debuted in March 2013.
In March 2014, MSC announced two new-builds (with an option on two more) mega-ships. The first, MSC Meraviglia, the second, MSC Bellissima. In December 2016, MSC finalized the deal for the two additional Meraviglia Plus ships, which will be delivered in October 2019 and September 2020. By passenger capacity, they will become the second-largest ships in the world (after Oasis and Allure of the Seas). The 167,600-gross-ton MSC Meraviglia will have 2,250 cabins holding 4,488 passengers in double occupancy, and a maximum capacity of 5,714 passengers and 1,536 crew members.
Among the new features will be specially designed cabins for families and an extended MSC Yacht Club that will include a large solarium, a private lounge and restaurant, and duplex suites.
The ships will be more environmentally friendly, with a hull and propulsion system optimized for energy efficiency and fuel scrubbers to reduce CO2 emissions.
MSC Meraviglia will be based in the Mediterranean. MSC has not confirmed where the additional three ships will be deployed, but speculation is high that one will be based in the Mediterranean and another could be deployed in the U.S.
Since MSC Lirica, all of the line's new-builds have been built at France's STX Europe shipyard. But in May 2014 the line announced it had signed for two further new builds (with an option on a third), which will be built at Italy's Fincantieri shipyard.
The first of the 160,000-ton, 4,134-passenger ships is called MSC Seaside, and is the first of a new class for MSC -- Seaside Class. MSC Seaside launched in November 2017 and MSC Seaview launched in June 2018. It will homeport in Brazil. There's also an option for a third ship, which would launch in 2021.
The line describes the new design as "revolutionary" and says it will pave the way for a new generation of cruise ships. The new features includes a sea-level promenade that circumnavigates the ship with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants, and a unique aft which looks like a Miami condo.
MSC Meraviglia is being built in the same shipyard as the Oasis class ships -- STX France -- and will be the biggest ship ever built by a European-based cruise line. Meraviglia -- the name means "wonder" in Italian -- will spend its first summer sailing the western Mediterranean with three homeports: Genoa, Marseille and Barcelona. A second Meraviglia class ship -- MSC Bellissima -- launched in March 2019. An even bigger version -- Meraviglia-plus class -- launches in 2019; the first ship will be called Grandiosa. The second, Virtuosa, launches in 2020. The two new Meraviglia Plus ships will have a capacity of nearly 6,300 passengers plus 1,700 crew.
The 5,400-passenger ships, slated for delivery in 2022, 2024, 2025 and 2026. The ships are being built in the same shipyard as the line's Meraviglia ships -- STX France -- and will be the biggest ships ever built by a European-based cruise line.
Part 2 to be continued......